You know how that local hot dog place has a uniform for all the employees? And how there’s that one new person who gets stuck outside, wearing the hot dog suit and holding a promotional sign? Well, believe it or not, that poor hot dog sweating in the sweltering heat or freezing out in the rain and snow–that hot dog is a hero.
If you think of all the adventures that include armies of some sort, you’ll likely notice that the soldiers of this army wear uniforms. You’ll also likely notice that the heroes of the story don’t wear uniforms. Even if they’re a part of the army, heroes still seem to dress uniquely, shunning the uniform and the conformity it represents.
This is probably done for many reasons. The most likely is just to put emphasis on the hero. You don’t want a hero to blend in with the less important background characters, and so one way to create importance is to use unique clothing. Many heroes are also considered heroic because they don’t always do what they’re told. Heroes like to speak out and stand up for what they believe in, and so to them, a uniform can represent oppression. And sometimes, the reason for a hero having unique dress is just to make them look more appealing. No matter how nice a uniform is, it can still get tiring to look at if there are thousands of people wearing it.
There are many positive sides to uniforms though. They can represent solidarity in a force united by a common goal. They can represent pride and inclusion in an elite group. Many people aspire to earn a uniform of some sort. Take athletes, for example. I bet tons of athletes have a feeling of pride when they first go out with their brand new team uniform. A uniform can make you a part of something great and be a symbol of pride for your achievements.
Uniforms can also be a sort of identity, such as the wizards from the world of Dragonlance, for example. There are three main types of magic, and each is represented by the colour of robes a wizard wears. White robes are for light magic, red are for neutral, and black are for dark. By wearing their robes, wizards give themselves an identity. Similarly, the uniform worn by soldiers in an army proclaims immediately which side they’re fighting for. This sometimes occurs that those fighting on the “good side” wear lighter coloured uniforms, and those fighting on the “bad side” wear darker coloured uniforms.
But just as uniforms can be a symbol of pride or identity, they can also be a symbol of the absence of both these things. Uniforms can take away from a person’s individual identity and be a sign of oppression. An example of this is in the Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension movie. In the alternate dimension, the uniform overalls that everyone has to wear is a symbol of their misery under the cruel hand of the dictator, Doofenshmirtz. Sometimes a hero needs to escape the uniform just to prove that he or she is not under the influence of a darker force.
A lot of the time, I think it makes sense for heroes to shun uniforms. Uniforms are good for making background characters seem commonplace and make the heroes seem more radiant and spectacular. They make the stars of the adventure stand out, but can very quickly give a lot of information about the person wearing the uniform, like their job or their alignment. Sometimes, though, I find that an unrealistic shunning of uniform can be irritating.
One example of this is in Xenoblade Chronicles. One of the characters, Reyn, is a member of the colony’s local defence force. The army has a very strict uniform that all of the soldiers, even the captains, must wear. Reyn doesn’t wear this though. He’s a low-ranking soldier, no better than any of the others, but yet he gets away with having no uniform just because he’s an important character for the story. I find this bothersome, but understandable. Right from the beginning, Reyn’s non-uniform appearance makes him stand out as the colourful character he is.
Uniforms are good for a lot of things, and also bad for some reasons, but in any case, they’re good at creating an illusion of non-importance. They make heroes seem extra special in comparison to those in uniform, and let us pay attention to those in the adventure who are most important. Though uniforms create an image of mediocrity, they really do a lot of help. Just think of how hard it would be for you to shine if you were never surrounded by a uniform.
How do you feel about uniforms? What uniform would you want to have the most?
May the uniforms in your life allow your inner radiance to shine freely, and make you seem more heroic in your own stories.
Some examples of uniforms: